A Visit to the Workshop of Bodger & Blacksmith Don Weber

posted by RedHeadedYeti on Mar 25th, 2012 at 5:21pm


Don Weber, along with being the handiest and friendliest neighbor one could possibly ask for, is a man of dizzying talents. I'm working on getting him to join the site, but he has to be one of the busiest people I know. And by busy, I mean he has achieved a remarkable amount in his lifetime when it comes to self-sufficiency and ancient crafting. I'm sure many of you are familiar with John Seymour and his books on the self-sufficient life style. I can honestly say that Don is a worthy successor to Mr. Seymour. Being Welsh and having lived in Ireland for some time, Don can lay claim to having been an acquaintance of Mr. Seymour. I have the feeling the two of them had some good times together.

Don is a Master Woodworker, Bodger (Chairmaker), Blacksmith, and overall Craftsman. He is also an avid fisherman, boater (he has written articles for WoodenBoat Magazine), brewer, and gardener, and still finds time for a round of golf most mornings. Although he is working on having it updated, his Web site has a short bio and information on his workshops. He is willing to work out deals on pricing, and will put together workshops for groups if scheduled in advance. I'm itching to take his class on building a replica of a Viking toolchest, which he demonstrated on PBS' The Woodwright's Shop, as well as other of his classes. For now, I pick his brain every chance I get, share a beer once in a while, and visit his shop in Paint Lick, KY when I get a chance.

Following are some pictures I took during a visit to his shop last summer. I'm sure many Earthineers will find common interests in his skills and the lifestyle his work propagates.

Here, Don demonstrates his foot-operated spring pole / bow lathe. He has also invented a bicycle gear driven lathe that was featured in Popular Woodworking Magazine. He created the portable lathe for a trip he took to the Honduras to teach econmically depressed groups living in tropical forests methods for earning income via methods other than logging. He performs this work through the organization GreenWood, which also instructs villagers on how to cultivate, harvest and convert under-story trees into saleable products. Don sets up shop in the area where he will be teaching, and gathers all of his material locally, encouraging individuals to gather materials from their own residences or from junkyards. More information can be found here (this link, assuming it works, will open a window encouraging you to download a Word file).


Above is an example of one of his gear-driven bowl-turning lathes. Note the hub that he took from an internal-gear bicycle.

Here, we have a contraption he has built for wet-bending some wood for the backs of one of his chairs.


And here, some chairs in progress.

He also makes his own charcoal. I won't go into detail here, but it seems a pretty simple process that entails getting a fire started and then cutting off all air so the fire smolders and the wood turns to charcoal. Finally, I'll include some pictures from his blacksmith shop. The last is of some hooks he made for us that we use to hang pots and pans in our kitchen. 




About the Author

Jereme Zimmerman  

The Yeti was reared on Twin Meadows Goat Farm in Northern Kentucky, where he was also homeschooled. During his wandering phase he lived in various parts of Northwest Washington and Colorado, bicycled across Europe, and spent a summer living out of his 1970 VW Bus while traveling the Southwest US. He now lives in Berea, KY along with his wife Jenna and their daughter Sadie. His articles are featured in New Pioneer magazine and SustainableKentucky.com.

Comment by Catherine Lyon on Mar 25th, 2012 at 6:18pm 0 Likes

Wow! I loved looking and seeing how one gets those beautiful turns on the iron (as in the flower hangers and in the pot hook.

It ALMOST seems easy, but totally interesting!!!!

Thank you!

Comment by RedHeadedYeti on Mar 25th, 2012 at 6:25pm 0 Likes

According to him, it was easy. He just threw them together in a couple minutes while he had some other projects going.

Comment by Chamomile Fields on May 12th, 2012 at 9:11pm 0 Likes

Nice post.
Making beautiful furniture is becoming a lost art. So is blacksmithing. Looks like you learned a lot!

Comment by Hilda on May 13th, 2012 at 12:34am 0 Likes

Very interesting! Thanks, Jereme! My grandfather (Mom's father) loved working with wood. We grandchildren always enjoyed spending time in Grandpa's woodworking shop! He would give us his scrap pieces of wood for making our own little creations. Happy memories!!

Comment by RedHeadedYeti on May 14th, 2012 at 1:12pm 0 Likes

Hilda, my dad and grandpa were both amateur woodworkers. My grandpa did a lot of folk art/crafts and some furniture and my dad has built practically everything that keeps their farm running, including most of the house. I'm slowly working on following in their footsteps. So far I've built a couple of end tables and a dog house. I just picked up a Craftsman table saw and radial arm saw (both from the 70's, but they run great) for a good deal at a moving sale. I'd like to do things via more ancient methods like Don does, but for now I'm sticking with power tools. Now to get started on that bench for our entry-way...

Comment by RedHeadedYeti on May 14th, 2012 at 1:19pm 0 Likes

Don has an article on making Sligo Irish chairs featured on the cover of the latest issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/articleindex/irish-chair

Comment by Hilda on May 14th, 2012 at 7:32pm 0 Likes

So glad to know you're following in the family tradition of woodworking! Enjoy working on your next project with the new (used) power saws you just purchased! I'd love seeing a pic of the finished bench! :)

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